The Mischief of Sin

by Thomas Watson, 1671

The Last and Great Change!

"I will wait until my change comes." Job 14:14

If all that has been previously said will not stop men in their sins, I shall add little more. Only let me make this one warning to them—that they would remember their mortality and think seriously how soon death may come—and how terrible it will be to die in their sins! John 8:21. For this purpose, let them hearken to this death-watch in the text, "I will wait until my change comes."

This book of Job treats much of death and mortality. Job looked upon himself as a man who was not long for this world. Job 17:1, "I am near death. The grave is ready to receive me!" And he loved to be walking often among the tombs—and so to familiarize himself with death. "I will wait until my change comes."

"Until my change comes"—that is, until death comes.

In the text there is:

Job's resolution, "I will wait."

The length of time he will wait, "until my change comes."

From which words flow three propositions:

1. Death is a change.

2. This change will come.

3. It is a great part of Christian prudence, to wait until this change comes.

Doctrine 1. Death is a change.

There is a threefold change:

A change before death.

A change at death.

A change after death.

1. There is a change BEFORE death. Death being ready to approach—changes a man's OPINION. When a person comes to die, he has another opinion of things, than he had before. He now sees with other eyes!

He now has another opinion of the WORLD than he had. He sees what a vain thing it is. He could never before, see its nothingness, the devil having cast a mist before his eyes. He once doted upon the world. Now, all its jewels are pulled off—and he sees it in its night dress. He sees how the world's paint falls off—and how unable it is to give one drop of true comfort at the hour of death!

Death approaching changes a man's opinion about SIN. Before, he looked upon sin, as merely a matter of merriment. He thought swearing an oath, drinking to excess—and wasting his precious time in vanity—was but a light thing. He said of sin, as Lot did of Zoar, "Is it not a little one?" Genesis 19:20. But when he sees death's grim face appear—he now has other apprehensions of sin than he had before. The wine that showed its color in the glass and smiled at him—now bites like a serpent! Proverbs 23:32. Those sins which before were thought to be light as feathers—are now like a ton of lead ready to sink him.

King Belshazzar was carousing and drinking wine in the cups taken from the Temple of God in Jerusalem; but when there came forth "fingers of a man's hand—and wrote upon the wall—then the King's "face turned pale with fear! Such terror gripped him that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way beneath him!" Daniel 5:6. So, after sinful pleasure enjoyed, when death begins to show itself and put forth its fingers—and a man sees a dreadful handwriting in his conscience—and then oh, how is his opinion about sin changed! How his thoughts trouble him! Now what would he give to have his sins pardoned? He never saw the face of sin as ugly as in the looking-glass of death!

When death comes near a man, it changes his opinion about HOLINESS. He once thought it a shame to be seen with a Bible in his hand. Holiness before was the object of his scorn and hatred. He called pious discourses, "mere cant;" repentance, "whining;" fervent praying, "babbling." He baptized true zeal with the name of fanaticism. But when death begins to approach, it changes his judgment. He now sees how mistaken he was—and that without holiness he can never see God, Hebrews 12:14. Now his eyes begin to be opened and he subscribes to that maxim, Job 28:28, "The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom!" He now sees the best way to be safe is to be sincerely pious. Oh, now what would he give for a grain of that holiness, which before he despised! How glad he would be to "die the death of the righteous," though he hated to live their life!

Thus, there is a change made not long before death. The sinner now sees himself in a snare and labyrinth! Now the minister must be sent for in all haste, though oftentimes he comes too late!

2. There is a change AT death. This is a change in the BODY. Job 14:20, "You always overpower them, and then they pass from the scene. You disfigure them in death and send them away." The most lovely complexion is greatly changed, when once the pale horse of death rides over it! The eyes are hollow. The cheeks are ashen. The jaws are sunken. That beautiful face which once allured—now frightens! Psalm 39:11, "You make his beauty consume away like a moth." Death is a moth which consumes a beauty of the finest spinning. Hence, the body being so discolored by death—and turned into a vile carcass—the patriarchs desired to have their dead buried out of their sight, Genesis 23:4. Death so changes the body and puts it into such a frightful dress—that none fall in love with it but the worms!

3. There is a change AFTER death. This change is chiefly in regard to the SOUL.

To the godly—it is a blessed change.

To the wicked—it is a cursed change.

The GODLY, after death, have a blessed change. They have a full acquittal from their sins and are put into an actual possession of their blissful inheritance. Faith gives them a propriety in glory—and death gives them a possession of glory. Oh, blessed change, from a desert—to a paradise; from a house of mourning—to a banquet house; from a bloody battle—to a victorious crown! "Glorified believers shall change their place—but not their company," said Preston. They shall have transforming sights of God. 1 John 3:2, "When He shall appear—we shall be like Him."

As the souls of the godly shall have a blessed change after death, so shall their bodies at the resurrection, John 6:40 and 1 Thessalonians 4:19. Though the grave is their long home, it is not their last home. Mother earth shall be in travail—and bring forth the bodies of the saints—and they shall shine as the sun in its meridian splendor! "He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours—and change them into glorious bodies like His own!" Philippians 3:21.

Death will make a cursed change to the WICKED. They must go out of the bed of pleasure, and leave all their mirth and music. Revelation 18:21, "Never again will the sound of music be heard there!" The wicked must change from joy—to misery; from a temporary paradise—to an eternal prison! "I am in agony in this fire!" Luke 16:19.

Doctrine 2. This change WILL come!

Death can no more be stopped in its race—than the sun. Death's scythe cuts asunder, even the royal scepter. God's messenger of death finds out every man. Ecclesiastes 8:8, "There is no discharge in that war." Among men, if one is summoned to the war—he may find some excuse. He may plead unfitness or he may substitute another in his place. But in this war with death—there is no getting off. "There is no discharge in that war." As death sends its challenge to all, so it is sure to conquer. When death, like God's sergeant-at-arms, arrests men, there is no bribing this sergeant or making resistance.

Death will not be bribed. It was a saying of Beauford, a wicked bishop in King Henry the Sixth's time, "Why should I die, being so rich? Will not death be hired? Will money do nothing?" Ezekiel 7:19, "Their silver and gold will be unable to save them, in the day of the Lord’s wrath!"

Death cannot be resisted. Take a man in his best estate. Let him be dignified with honor like Solomon, armed with strength like Sampson. Were his flesh as hard as bronze—yet God's bullet of death would shoot through him! How easily can God look us into our grave! Men may set up their banners—but God always sets up the trophies!

That there must be a change, is evident. The body, being but an earthly tabernacle, 2 Peter 1:14, the cords of it will soon be loosed. Besides, there is a decree of death passed upon all people, "Man is destined to die once—and after that to face judgment!" Hebrews 9:27. And how soon this change will come—we do not know. Death may be within a few days march of us—and when it comes with its letter of summons—we must surrender!

Use 1. Exhortation

Branch 1. Let us all exercise ourselves with THOUGHTS of this great change. Let us not be of that Emperor's mind—who judged it cowardly to think of death. Job 17:14, "I have said to corruption—you are my father; and to the worm—you are my mother." Job, by often meditating on death, was as well acquainted with it, as he was with his father and mother. By often handling this serpent—it will be less frightful. The serious contemplation on this great change, death—would produce these four excellent effects.

1. It would HUMBLE us. Why should we set up banners and trophies of pride—when we are but dust and rottenness! The thoughts of the grave would bury our pride.

2. The thoughts of a sudden change would be an antidote against SIN. Shall we go on in sin—when God may say this night, "Give an account of your stewardship!" The way to give sin a mortal wound—is to set up a death's-head on our table—which will make us think of our face after we die!

In particular, the thoughts of our change would keep us from sinful compliance. Some latitudinarians can cut their religion according to the fashion of the times. They can be Protestant or Papist. They can sail with any wind that blows to their advantage. But that man will not be for every change—who thinks seriously of his last change.

3. The thoughts of this change would cure our inordinate love of the WORLD. A change will come shortly—and then what will this fleeting world be to us? All our money will serve only to buy us a burial sheet! Saladine, the Turkish Emperor, lying at the point of death, commanded that a white sheet should be carried before him to his grave on the point of a spear, with this proclamation, "These are the rich spoils which Saladine the Emperor carries away with him—of all his triumphs and victories obtained—of all his realms possessed. Nothing is left him but this sheet!" After a great feast comes the basket for leftover food. Shortly, death, like such a basket, will take away all our earthly comforts. "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." Luke 12:20-21.

4. The serious thoughts of our last and great change, would make us spend our TIME better. How diligent men would be in Scripture reading, how fervent in prayer, how watchful over our hearts, how useful to our relations! We should live every day as if it were our dying day. He who knows how short his time is in his farm, will make the best advantage of it. He who remembers the shortness of his time here on earth—and how soon a change may come—will improve all the seasons of grace for his soul that he may give a good account of his stewardship.

Branch 2. Let us PREPARE for this change. All the changes we meet with in the world, are but to fit us for our last change. Men unprepared, being summoned by the king of terrors before God's tribunal, go as the prisoner to the bar to receive their fatal doom! The thoughts of this, should be enough to put them into a frenzy. Would it not be sad for a man to have his house on fire—and the fire so fierce that he has no time to get out his goods? Such is the case of many at death. A fever has set their house of clay on fire—and they are snatched away so suddenly that they have no time to make provision for their souls!

Question. What shall we do to be fitted for our great and last change?

Answer 1. Let us labor to get into Christ. It is dreadful when death finds any outside of Christ. As if the avenger of blood had overtaken the manslayer before he had gotten to the city of refuge. You who are in Christ, are as the dove in the rock. Romans 8:1, "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Christ has fully atoned for the sin of believers. Christ's blood turns a deathbed into a bed of roses!

The best way to be fitted for dying, is being married to Christ. It does not matter if death unties the knot between the body and the soul—as long as faith has tied the knot between Christ and the soul. The Prince of Peace secures against the king of terrors.

Answer 2. If we would be fitted for our last change—let us labor for a spiritual change. Before our bodies are changed, let us labor to have our hearts changed. Oh, let us get the holy anointing, 1 John 2:27. Grace is as needful for the soul—as oil is for the lamp, and as breath for the body. John 3:7, "You must be born again." He who is born but once—shall die twice. Grace makes an admirable change. To be changed from sin to holiness—is as if iron were changed into gold, or dust changed into diamonds. Now, the soul is all glorious within. Oh, labor for this gracious change! At death, a good face may change for the worse—but a good heart changes for the better.

Doctrine 3. It is a high point of Christian prudence, to wait until our change comes. "I will wait." Waiting implies two things:

EXPECTATION. "I will wait for my change"—that is, I will look for it. A gracious soul is ever expecting to hear news of his going home to be with Christ. Death does not come to a child of God unawares—but it come as Jonathan's arrow did to David, who went into the field and expected where the arrow would be shot, 1 Samuel 20:24. A godly man looks every hour for the arrow of death to be shot at him.

DILIGENCE. "I will wait until my change comes"—that is, I will be setting my soul in order for death. We must not wait and sit still—but wait and work. He who waits for his master's coming will be careful that everything is in good decorum. Matthew 24:46, "Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he comes, shall find so doing." Be often calling yourselves to account; every night review what you have been doing all the day. This is the right waiting for our final change—when we put our souls in a ready posture for death and judgment.

Use 2. Reproof

Branch 1. This reproves such as are so far from waiting for their change, that they cannot endure to think of their change. They are no more willing to think of death—than a man drowned in debt is to think of going to prison. Amos 6:3, "You who put far away the evil day." He hopes for long life. The bud of youth hopes to come to the flower of manhood—and the flower of manhood hopes to come to old age—and old age hopes to renew its strength as the eagle. Psalm 49:11, "Their inward thought, is that their houses shall continue forever." They would rather be building fine houses—than providing their tombstone. The mirthful youth does not like the noise of the death-bell—and the powdered hair forgets his final destiny.

Branch 2. It reproves such as wait—but not in the right sense. They wait to fulfill their lusts. "The adulterer waits for the twilight, for he says, No one will see me then." Job 24:15. The unjust man waits for an opportunity to defraud. Is this to wait as Job did? Where do men wait for their change? In a tavern, or at a theater? Alas, their change comes before they are aware! The graves are ready for them—but they are not ready for their graves!

Use 3. Exhortation

It exhorts Christians to wait for their change. As the farmer waits until his seed sown springs up, as the merchant waits for the coming home of his ship—so we should wait until death comes to ship us over to the eternal world.

1. Let us wait with watchfulness. Mark 13:33, "Watch and pray." Let us watch our hearts—that they neither decoy us into sin, nor charm us asleep in carnal security.

2. Let us wait with patience. "I will wait until my change comes." That is, "I will be patient until my change comes."

The sufferings the godly endure in this life—and the joys they will have after death—may put them upon desiring this blissful change. But though they should covet to die—yet they must be content to live. Wait with patience until the appointed time has come. The Father knows when the best season is, to bring his child home. Christian, do not be desirous to be in heaven, before your time. Wait but awhile—and you shall have what you have prayed and wept for. It is but awhile—and God will take the cross off your shoulders and set a crown upon your head!